Learning to live gluten free while you’re at home is a big enough challenge as it is, but add traveling gluten free to the mix and you take it to a whole other level of challenge. I’ve talked about this often on my blog, but I think it bears repeating (again and again and again). First of all, in the 3 1/2 years since my Celiac diagnosis, the world of gluten free has changed enormously, for the better. There is a plethora of GF products available in places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s – and the “regular” (um, you know what I mean) supermarkets are stocking GF products. And it seems that we see more and more restaurants jumping on the bandwagon and offering GF menus (ya’ still gotta be careful, though – each one is unique in terms of its’ compliance – IMHO).
For this post, I am going to share our experience while being away from home for a week in Phoenix, AZ. Doing some online research prior to the trip, we found a Town Place Suites by Marriott very close to where our work would be for the week. This hotel offers the perfect place for those who want to cook while staying in a hotel. The room/suite has a small (but full) kitchenette, complete with a sink, a small stove (four burners), dishwasher, microwave, and refrigerator. And here’s the best part – when I made the reservation a month before our trip, I spoke directly to a reservations clerk at the hotel and asked if they would restock the kitchen with new pots and pans and a new toaster, and they agreed! No worries about cross contamination.
After landing at the airport in Phoenix, we went to a Whole Foods and then to Trader Joe’s, in order to buy food for the two meals a day I would be preparing in our hotel room. We planned on eating either leftovers for the third meal or eating out (lots of restaurants in Phoenix with GF menus. My pre-planning made food shopping quick and efficient. As it turned out, we could’ve done much of our food shopping at a supermarket not far from the hotel, but we still would’ve had to go to WF and TF’s to get some of the things that aren’t usually sold at “regular” supermarkets (wheat-free tamari, etc.).
I could give you the whole menu and grocery list, but instead, what I’d like to do is give you the highlights with the hope that it will help you when you next travel and need to eat gluten free on the road. BTW, when we travel and have the option of doing any cooking (a lot or a little), we always bring enough kitchen toys to facilitate prepping and cooking food. If we’re flying, we try to pack as much of it as possible into our luggage (heck, we’re paying for the luggage anyway!). For example, we brought a folding plastic cutting board, a large knife, a smaller serrated knife, a mandolin (for grating ginger, a must for us!), carrot peeler, garlic press, large wooden spoon, large stainless steel spoon, can opener, folding colander, a few kitchen towels, and sponge. Though it might seem like overkill, we always bring our blender. My husband packs it very carefully with bubblewrap. We like to have green smoothies every day, plus I can use it to make, for example, hummus or pesto or soup.
During our grocery run, we bought, among other foods, several containers of extra-firm tofu. When we got back to the hotel after food shopping, I sliced the tofu into about 8 slices and marinated them in wheat-free tamari, grapeseed oil, minced garlic, and freshly grated ginger for about 15 minutes. I sauteed some of the slices for dinner that night – we had sandwiches with the crispy sauteed tofu slices and sliced avocado on toasted Glutino Flax bread (from the freezer at Whole Foods). I let the rest of the tofu marinate overnight in a ziplock bag and then baked them the next morning in the oven for about thirty minutes. After they cooled down, I put them in the frig and used them all week for sandwiches, salads, and general noshing.
The Gluten Free Diva part of me that likes to make everything from scratch has to let go of that drive when we travel (great pun, huh?!?). WF and TF’s both have frozen brown rice that microwaves in a few minutes. We heated a can of organic beans to which we added some water and freshly minced garlic, S&P and voila, a quick Mexican meal. TJ’s has some of the best sweet little grape tomatoes. I quartered them, added some garlic, freshly chopped cilantro, lime juice, finely chopped jalapeno pepper, S&P, and had delicious salsa to go with our feast. Oh, yeah, we also had brussel sprouts (to which I had added some oil and S&P) which I’d roasted in the cute little oven in our cute little kitchen. Made great leftovers.
We had green smoothies every single day. The basic formula: core a pear and an apple and throw into a blender with the insides of a kiwi, the juice of one lemon and one lime, and a cup of water. After it’s blended, add a big ol’ handful of baby spinach, one full cored head of romaine lettuce, 1/2 of a peeled cucumber, and 2 celery sticks. Blend some more. Then add 1 frozen banana, a cup of frozen berries (your choice), and a cup of frozen mango. Blend again. Voila. We took it with us to the studio and sipped on it throughout the day. NOTE: before the frozen fruit gets added, the smoothie is a lovely shade of green. The frozen fruit turns it into more of a muddy, rather unpleasant color, but it tastes fab.
Breakfast consisted of GF boxed cereal and homemade granola which we’d brought from home. We picked up a container of organic unsweetened rice milk from TJ’s. Done!
So, it’s possible, if you’re away from home and have access to a hotel that has a small kitchenette, you’re golden. One caveat – while I deplore throwing away food, before flying back home, some of the uneaten food had to be tossed as well anything leftover that contains liquid like the wheat-free tamari, oil etc. But in the end, we still spent far less money than if we went out to eat for all of our meals. Not to mention how much safer our eating was.
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. I’ve gotten really good at staying GF while traveling. And if you have any additional hints or tips, let me know.